feed me, Seymour

Move or freeze?

The cat is on my lap. Again. At first, I attributed it to post traumatic stress disorder because of the veterinarian visit. But it’s been a couple weeks, and he’s here, every day, all day if possible. I love the guy, but really. Enough. Get a cat life.

Last week, in an effort to keep our twentyish pound cat (NOT the one on my lap) on this planet a bit longer than his current weight will sustain, my husband bought “food balls.” They are little plastic things that look like blue wiffle balls. (I prefer to call them remembralls or palantirs. But that’s just me.) You put food inside, twist to choose a hole size for food to come out, and the idea is that the cats will chase the thing around until it chooses to dispense their food, one bit at a time.

The cats are not pleased. The first day, Pippin (twenty-pounder) rolled his under some lumber, and I could not find it all day. I think this was planned sabotage.

Fact—these animals have enjoyed their cushy deal of getting a bowl filled first thing in the morning. (Ever had a cat jump on your face the moment the alarm clicks on? They don’t even wait for the music. One click and it’s “Feed me! Or I will eat your face.”) Anyway—they like their gig. It’s easy. No worries. No working to get their food. Laying on laps or in sunbeams or on any clothing left around (preferably black) all day after devouring their morning rations. It’s a pretty sweet deal, actually.

But not a life.

Mike Breen, in Building a Discipling Culture, says, “How much easier it seems to stand still in what we know, regardless of how unfulfilling, than to move into the unknown! The alive disciple is a disciple on the move. God uses many different methods to stimulate movement—his Word, his Spirit, and sometimes persecution—because his desire is to see his followers reaching out to our dying world. Movement is an indication of life.”

I think we are like cats. Albeit less fuzzy. Like the children of Israel at the Red Sea, like the disciples in the upper room, like Theodin at Helm’s Deep (you knew there would be a Tolkien reference in there, didn’t you?), we prefer to sit on the shore and outwait whatever is out there. If staying put is scary, movement is scarier. We are way too prone to sit safely on a lap rather than take a step forward into the unknown. Even if that is the only way to sustain life. 

We are content to live partial lives.

God has forced me into some frightening forward momentum. I would never have chosen some of the places I’ve been moved to. They were terrifying, desolate places. But in those places I found a life-sustaining grace I would never, ever have found staying put. And once you’ve tasted more than a partial life? There is no fooling yourself. You will never want to be a lap-sitter again.

We are forcing our cats to move in order to live. We know that’s the natural order of things. We also know it’s not the natural inclination of man nor beast. So sometimes, we have to make ourselves move.

Is there a call on your life to, as Breen says, “reach out to our dying world”? Where will it ask you to go? It just sent my friend Jeanette (http://jeanettelevellie.blogspot.comto a prison visiting room for the first time. (Believe me, this is scary. I know.) But her joy at the outcome was life-giving. It was blessed movement toward full life.

Today, find out where you’re being prodded to move. Get off the lap. Movement is a sign that you’re alive. Staying put is . . . not. Please share your stories of movement here. They help all of us remember that the frightening, dark places are often the most beautiful. 

scary letters and camelot moments

By http://www.birdphotos.com (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I did something very scary a few weeks ago. I sent three chapters of my upcoming book to total strangers. Yes, total strangers, as in, people I do not know, have never met, and, no, I don’t know if they are actually strange. But most are also writers, so you can take an educated guess on that one.

The task was simple–to request endorsements from people whose names readers will recognize. Then, when they see my book they will think, “Wow, this might be good since my favorite fantasy author says it is,” rather than, “Right. Another person I’ve never heard of who probably has the attention-getting talent of an armadillo. “(Actually, I would pay a lot of attention to an armadillo. So that may not be the best comparison.)

 But it was scary. Why? Because these people are important. Busy. Big names. Writers and academic types who get asked to do this stuff all the time. And I. Am not. But deeper than that because–and here’s my confession to you–deep down, no matter how many books I write or talks I deliver, something inside still tells me every time, it’s not good. That when one of these writers or professors takes the time to look at my work, the truth will be out. It sucks. Who ever told me I could write? It is terrible drivel fit only for lining the stalls of llamas so they can spit at particularly awful passages. That is what they will say, and it will be so.

I know it isn’t so. I have plenty of evidence to the contrary in readers’ kind words and publishers’ apparent trust. So why do I still have this belief? Why do I get up to speak in front of crowds, which I love to do, and still wonder if I have anything of worth to say?

The surprise I’ve decided in the whirlwind last two months of multiple speaking engagements and trying to birth this book is–it doesn’t matter why. Why, a question I really love to ask, isn’t functional here. Because the real question is, what will I do with that feeling? And I’ve decided to do a couple things:

1–Make sure the work is the best it can be. Elementary, buy hey, I know a LOT of Christian writers who believe if they are writing what God tells them to write, it’s all good and should be adored. Apparently, God did not tell them to edit, rewrite, and edit some more. This is a tough business, and if I really believe God is in it? I want to make sure I’m offering him the best I have in me and representing him well.

2–Go for it anyway. Hard. Hard. Hard. Have I mentioned I do not like putting myself out there? I do not like talking about myself? I DO NOT LIKE letting anyone read anything I’ve written, which makes this writing gig kind of a challenge, seeing as that’s pretty much the entire point? (Since I do not harbor the illusion that I’m SO good someone will publish all my work posthumously and the world will applaud.) So, yeah, sending chapters out to writers and professors to potentially laugh at is right up there with all my nightmares of being naked in public. (Possibly a psychological connection.)

But–here’s the big but (one ‘t’). I did. And, possibly the two biggest names on my list, who I assumed would never even reply, wrote glowing endorsements. GLOWING. I am glowing just thinking about it. If I had not done it, jumped in, reached for what I never imagined I would receive, I never would have. End of story. Close your eyes, hum a tune to drown out the voices in your head, and DO IT. 

3–Here’s the biggest surprise. I am choosing to embrace the feeling and fears of “not good enough.” I think, perhaps, God can use those feelings, is using those feelings, to make me more humbly dependent on him. When those feelings crop up? I know I need to run to him. I need to rely on him. I need to whisper, “Yes. It’s true. I am not good enough. But you are. And by your grace, your words will be spoken here today. Mine will indeed be drivel if you are not in it.” 

Paradoxically, I know if I was not forced into that position of dependence and humility, I would have nothing to say. If I trusted only myself and my abilities? And oh, I could. I have. I’m good at it. It sometimes is not pretty. But when I must throw it all on him? He astounds and amazes. For one bright shining moment, I feel the relationship as it was always meant to be.

Embrace insecurity? Yes. I will. I may never enjoy it. But I need it.  

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Old, Alone, Done For

Title Peter Pan reference anyone? Yes, it is. Just clearing up that it does not refer to me. Or anyone I know.

Trying to type a blog this morning is hampered by one thing. I can’t pick up my computer. OK, two things. There is a cat on my lap, causing me to type crooked and crane my already-sore neck. But this is normal. Unfortunately, the elbow pain that causes my current inability to left an object of more than two ounces is becoming normal. And I do not like this.

I hurt my elbow picking up a griddle to wash it last night. True story. I could not make that up. And now pain shoots up my arm if I even contemplate squeezing the toothpaste, let alone anything more strenuous.

Between the anti-rejection drugs that keep me alive but prefer to treat my body like an amusement park fun house; some thirty-five extra pounds sitting on my knees, hips, and ankles; and my, ahem, maturity level, there is a big lack of cooperation between my brain and my muscles. My brain says I can hike volcanoes and clamber down rock slides and garden for hours. My body says, “Um, no, I think we’ll just sit in a hammock and drink iced tea, except if you even try to get in or out of one of those things I will hurt you. Honestly.”

My body says I can’t even pick up a stinking frying pan. Pathetic.

No, this is not a sob story in which you are to now feel so sorry for me that you send well wishes and gift cards and money. Although, that would be OK if you felt so led. Amazon or Target, if you’re asking.

This is a story of legitimate fear. I have some things that I love in life. Traveling. Gardening. Rock climbing and hiking. I do fear a body that one day will not allow me to do all the things I still dream of doing. Some of it is in my control. Some, like the effect of medication causing way-too-easy injury, is not. I am honestly terrified of the day I look out at this beautiful creation in which I want to run, jump, and play in every corner and realize, I can’t.

Then I remember that part that is in my control. And I remember I should be incredibly grateful that any of it is in my control. For many, it is not. And I renew my commitment to do whatever it takes to ensure that I can run and jump and play.

More than that, I renew my commitment to be active in God’s world, carrying out his plan, for as long as I am able. Far worse than not being able to live my dream of cruising the Galapagos Islands or hiking the Coastal Trail of Wales would be to have to say to God, “I can’t do what you ask. I can’t finish your dreams for my life. I didn’t control what I could to be physically able to do that.” That would be the worst kind of horrible.

Our lead pastor has been talking about this subject the last few weeks, and the reflection on strength got me off my butt, literally. I’d been thinking for a while I needed to find some basic strengthening exercises to do what I could to keep injury at bay. I know meds make me prone to it. That doesn’t mean I have to go down without a fight. So I did, finally. I looked them up. I now have a roster of things to do to make those muscles holding together my aching knees, shoulders, and ankles stronger. And I’m doing them. Not perfectly. Not every day. But I am doing what I can to control what I can. So I can hold off that day when I say “I can’t” for as long as possible.

If you would like to see the exercises, try here. http://www.pinterest.com/jimari/in-my-dreams/

If you want to listen to the awesome message on strengthening our bodies for God’s use, go here. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/lets-get-physical-what-physical/id568584787?i=169131857&mt=2 (Our pastor is pretty great.You will like it. Trust me.)

If you just want an iced tea and a hammock, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Those things are killers.